Rachel H. van Gorp is an entrepreneur, globetrotter, and working mum based in California, United States. After leaving her career to follow her husband to UAE, she started her first business GYDO (Get Your Drink On) – a social gifting platform for friends to buy friends drinks at their favourite winery, brewery or taproom from around the world.
Rachel is not only an entrepreneur but also a mother and a traveller, she is leading her own company GYDO with her co-founder Ryan while also taking care of her two kids.
1- Can you tell our readers about your background?
I am originally from Santa Barbara, CA. At 18 I got to go to Europe on one of those bus tours with my grandmother. We saw 7 countries in 14 days, and it was a whirlwind, but I got bit by the travel bug and I have been travelling ever since.
At this point, I have been to over 40 countries, lived in the UAE and Australia, Hawaii, Boston (for grad school). I am now married to a Dutch man and we have two kids. By the time my eldest daughter was 5 she had been to 15+ countries and needed a new passport because we ran out of pages to stamp.
My father was an engineer who started his own business when I was in high school. He always stressed the importance of working for yourself and as I entered my career that advice was always in the back of my head.
“One of the hardest parts, for me, of living abroad, is missing out on life’s big, and small, moments with friends and family back home.”
2- What inspired you to start GYDO?
I spent the last 6 years living in the UAE. One of the hardest parts, for me, of living abroad, is missing out on life’s big, and small, moments with friends and family back home.
When my best friend got engaged, I desperately wanted to be there to celebrate and buy her a bottle of champagne at our favourite bar. But there was no way to do this. I called the bar and they would not allow me to pre-pay for a bottle as a gift for a friend who would at some point come and claim it.
My co-founder, Ryan, is South African and lives in Santa Barbara. He shares the same experiences as I did on missing out on life with friends and family all over the world. He had the idea for an app to buy a friend a drink, from anywhere in the world. The idea resonated so much with me that I jumped at the opportunity to help explore the possibility.
I have no background in tech or apps, but I loved the idea and I am a curious person by nature. So we started down this journey. Now, almost 18 months later, and countless iterations or the app, we have a product we are ready to share with the world.
3- Where is your business based?
4- How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
We started exploring the idea by talking to bar owners in our town, and asking them what would make the process work for them. Our initial idea was to build an app that would support the locals.
We launched our MVP of the app in Santa Barbara in January 2020, it turned out to be poor timing as all the bars we know and love shut down. At that point, we started making some changes.
5- What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
So far, it’s only been word of mouth. During the pandemic, we have been working on making a great product, and we think we have it. So now we are ready to start rolling it out.
6- What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
We are an app to buy a friend a drink in bars, and all bars, across the world, were pretty much shut down last year. So we had to push pause on the rollout. But it gave us more time to work on making the app experience something users will love.
7- What personal sacrifices have you made throughout your career?
Hmm, that’s a hard one. I gave up my career (that I didn’t really love) to move to the UAE so my husband could have the career he loved. While we were abroad I started working on GYDO. I don’t think I would have ever been able to start GYDO or work on it if we were in the US because it would not have been financially realistic to raise a family on one salary.
8- How do you stay focused?
I love my work. I am also a mom of two young kids, so the time I get to work on GYDO, while they are at school, is my time. When my kids are home I want to be focused on them.
I work about 5 hours in the morning, till 2 pm, have the afternoon and evening with my kids, and then put in a few more hours after they go to bed. Because I have limited time to work on my company during the day, I need to stay focused for those hours so I can be present when my kids are around and enjoy them while they still need me.
9- How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
We don’t have a lot of competition right now. There are two other apps out there, but they require you buy a friend a drink at a specific venue that is part of their platform. They have a two-sided marketplace business model. We were able to eliminate them by partnering with Stripe as a beta tester for a new product they offer.
Basically, when you buy a friend a drink, they receive a virtual visa gift card that can be used to pay for a drink at any bar, winery, brewery or tasting room of their choice. Each drink purchased for you adds funds to your gift card that you can redeem anywhere that takes apple or google pay.
“There are so many reasons we give ourselves why right now is not the right timing to start your own business.”
10- What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
I’ll let you know when I find it.
11- What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
Just go for it. There are so many reasons we give ourselves why right now is not the right timing to start your own business. It’s hard, it’s scary, and it’s intimidating. But you will never know unless you try.
12- What’s the best work-related advice you’ve ever received?
The answer is always no unless you ask. From everything to asking for an upgrade on a flight to seeking investment from a VC firm. If they say “no”, you are no worse off than you are before you asked. But if you don’t ask, you may miss out on a great opportunity.
13- How do you manage self-doubt?
This is hard. I am still working on this one. every day. I’m open to advise.
14- What’s your favourite app, blog, and book? Why?
Actually, I listen to podcasts mostly now. I find them incredibly helpful and easier for me to digest when driving or going for a walk instead of trying to find a quiet place to read.
15- What’s your favourite business tool or resource? Why?
Canva. It’s so easy to use, and I don’t need to hire a graphics designer for the little things. I can just do it myself.
Fiverr has also been pretty awesome for me. If there is something I don’t know how to do, I have been able to find someone who does know how to do it. There are always limitations and you have to be very detailed with your job description, but I have had a lot more success than issues. And I enjoy working with people all over the world.
16- Could you name a woman who’s inspired you the most?
Professionally, I really love the startup story of Spanx and its founder Sara Blakey. Her ambition, sales approach, the brand she has built, and her mission to support women founders and entrepreneurs.
On the more personal side, my mom. She had 4 kids under the age of 4 and made all our clothes, cooked all the dinners, and constantly did great crafts and outings with us. Her sister died when my cousin Carrie was 1 year old, so my mom raised Carrie with me and my two brothers. I struggle sometimes to go to the grocery store with just two kids, and I am truly amazed at how she did it all. This year I got to move home to Santa Barbara for one year while we transition from living abroad and my husband is teaching remotely. Even at 70 my mom picks the kids up from school (mine and my brother’s 2) and does a craft with them after school or takes them to the park, 3 days a week. It’s an amazing blessing to be able to live near them for this year and give my kids this time with their grandparents.
“I rarely do anything for myself, and I know that’s not the ideal. But at this point in my life, there are only so many hours in the day, and I am making the choice to prioritize my family and my business.”
17- How do you balance work and life?
I love working for my company. We are at a very exciting and pivotal moment right now. The hard part for me is finding time for everything else I enjoy, cooking elaborate meals, going fishing, playing golf, planning play dates with friends and kids, etc. I rarely do anything for myself, and I know that’s not the ideal. But at this point in my life, there are only so many hours in the day, and I am making the choice to prioritize my family and my business.
18- How do you unplug from work?
I am not sure if it is completely unplugging, but as I mentioned before, I enjoy listening to podcasts. I am usually listening to things about entrepreneurship and startups, hoping to gain some knowledge and insight, to constantly be learning about this industry where I have very little experience. I try and squeeze in one podcast a day, between driving to and from school or while I get ready.
Once my kids are out of school, it’s mom mode. I don’t plan meetings for that time and stay off email until they go to bed.
19- What do you have planned for the next six months?
We are rolling out a huge PR campaign with a firm in NY and hopefully, in the next 6 months, GYDO will be on everyone’s cell phones.